Evolution Schmevolution

Matt Yglesias should stick to politics and philosophy and avoid issues of biology. In a blog post over at Tapped Yglesias writes (in part):

Last but not least, nothing whatsoever of practical importance hinges on whether or not life on earth originated as a result of intelligent design. The theory is exceedingly silly pseudo-science, but it doesn’t actually threaten anything. There is, moreoever, no reason to think it’s especially crucial for the average citizen to have an accurate grasp of state-of-the-art biological theory. Most people don’t understand quantum mechanics, general relativity, or any number of other scientific and technical topics and life goes on just fine.

I find it astounding, but not all that troubling, that Yglesias would advocate for scientific ignorance. But far more disconcerting is the claim that ID does not pose some concerns when it comes to biological research. Case in point, this post by Tara Smith. Since people don’t always click the link, let me summarize Tara’s post (with the caveat that I am not a epidemiologist who studies infectious disease–or more simply click the damn link).

  1. In 1945 scientists suggested that bacteria might develop resistance to anti-microbials due to evolutionary processes.
  2. Currently we know that the concern expressed in 1945 is now a reality.
  3. But, science doesn’t sit still so researchers looked for alternatives to the now less efficacious anti-microbials.
  4. Scientists looked at our own innate immune system and this sparked interest in peptides that could kill the bacteria (phage therapy).
  5. It was thought at the time that evolutionary processes would be unlikely to come up with resistance to this kind of treatment.
  6. However, scientists being curious people decided to do what Intelligent Design theorists don’t, they tested the idea.
  7. Low and behold, the strains of strains of E. coli and Pseudomonas fluorescens that the scientist used in their experiments developed resistance to this type of treatment.

So what does all that mean? Well, if scientists didn’t think to actually test the possibility of bacteria evolving defenses against this type of phage therapy, research might have plunged on ahead and such a therapy might have been deployed on a wide spread scale. The bacteria would evolve, and thus our own innate immune system would be compromised. In short, by basing an experiment based on evolutionary theory, a suprising and highly useful result was found. So, is ID harmless? Well ID suggests that some changes are simply not possible via evolutionary processes. Scientists thought that the evolution of resistance to phage therapy wasn’t likely, turns out they were wrong. Could ID have lead researchers to a different and potentially very dangerous result? I hope that question gives some people (like Matt Yglesias) reason to re-think their position.

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Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    Yeah, Yglesias was saying that a few months back; I think he’s most charitably taken as saying that Dems need to choose their battles.

    But I still disagree with him. I don’t get too much into the communities-must-share-core-beliefs stuff, but at some level it’s inescapable. If reasonable people can’t believe a no-brainer like “science really works,” then what hope do we have of solving the really difficult epistemological issues, like “did Scooter Libby know Valerie Plame’s status was classfied?”

    Take a look at this Bob Jones U. physics textbook that they’re discussing over at Tacitus.org. The authors lead off with an amazingly relativist notion of “science,” arguing that one’s notion of what counts as science is up for grabs. Spooky (tho arguable) stuff.

  2. BWE says:

    AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!

    No kidding. I want to be nice. I really want to. But I can’t find it in my self to pet the stupid christians on their little heads and tell them that it’s ok that they are trying to plunge the world into darkness, we understand. We have all this tolerance for religions that say things like: If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.

    If you want to tell me that I’m going to hell because I got my master’s in marine biology that’s fine with me. I don’t care about hell. If you want to really tell me off, do it at
    brainwashedgod.blogspot.com

    AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!

    How close do you suppose Columbus came to the edge? Darn near fell off didn’t he?

    BWE,

    I edited your “arrrgghhhs” down a bit to see if that helps the formatting.

    S.V.

  3. Bithead says:

    (Sigh) Another religious bigot heard from.

    As to Yglesias, I find it neither astounding, nor all that troubling, to find him going for the angle of ignorance. He sells it in so much else of his stuff, after all, on other topics.

    So, is ID harmless? Well ID suggests that some changes are simply not possible via evolutionary processes. Scientists thought that the evolution of resistance to phage therapy wasn’t likely, turns out they were wrong. Could ID have lead researchers to a different and potentially very dangerous result?

    Different? Possibly. Then again, added information often contributes to different results. Dangerous? That depends. Are you suggesting that adding datapoits eliminates all scientific principles? Seems a tad extreme a view.

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    BWE,

    With all do respect, I want to suggest that when you write,

    But I can’t find it in my self to pet the stupid christians on their little heads and tell them that it’s ok that they are trying to plunge the world into darkness, we understand.

    it doesn’t really help. There are many Christians who believe in both evolution and some form of creation.

  5. Steve Verdon says:

    Bithead,

    Different? Possibly. Then again, added information often contributes to different results. Dangerous? That depends. Are you suggesting that adding datapoits eliminates all scientific principles? Seems a tad extreme a view.

    No, I think you are missing the point. Suppose ID is taken seriously. It is taught in universities, and becomes part of the biologists “toolbox”. Somebody looks at bacteria cell membranes and says, “That is CSI, hence can’t evolve, hence no problem, full steam ahead with the peptide/phage therapy approach.”

    Then bacteria evolve resistance (after all, bacteria don’t give two shits about ID theory, Bill Dembski, or God) and now our own immune systems have been compromised.

    Not a pretty picture. Granted, nobody in the ID movement has said anything about the “IDness” of bacterial cell membranes, but the point is to show that ID doesn’t encourage experiments. Once something is irreducibly complex, exhibits CSI, or such there is supposedly no need to keep looking for more answers as such answers are impossible to obtain.

  6. Mike says:

    OMG (pun intended)
    Here we go again. Why is this such a topic? Because some idiots can’t accept that the earth revolves around the sun, not the other way (see Catholic treatment of scientist several centuries ago).

    Look, I believe in God. I believe he created us. I believe he created the universe. I believe he created the rules the universe by which it works. I am not the first to call mathematics the language of God.

    Chemistry, physics and evolution are observable, testable, provable facts. That’s how He created us. When He does something to make those rules work different, we call it a miracle. Like begining life, like giving us a spark of, theoretically, intelligence.

    I don’t see the conflict. Sorry, but I just don’t.

    Regards.

  7. BWE says:

    Ok ok. So that was a bit extreme. I’m sorry. I quit smoking 5 days ago if that counts for anything. But ID has got me mad. I am a marine biologist. I study fisheries off the west coast for a nameless govt’ agency. (If any of my bosses knew I dabbled in neoconservative viewpoints I could be fired) Suffice it to say that I know a lot of scientists. I also do a lot of science. Much of the science that I do has to do with evolution. There are some court cases having to do with salmon speciation which I have done some work on for instance. Actually, all of my science has to do with evolution. SOme of it is even a little complex. But one thing about it is that it is nearly impossible for me to explain what I do to someone without a science background.

    THere is a guy named Michael Behe who is a biochemist at Lehigh University. He aught to know better. Here is what his department thinks. I am not adding that to simply take a stab at the poor guy, I am adding that to show that nobody agrees with the guy. I know a lot of scientists. Probably hundreds. None of them agree with Behe. THere is some list floating around of 400 scientists who endorse ID. Most are not in biological sciences (although that shouldn’t matter) and they represent far less of a percentage of scientists than schitzophrenics represent of the general population. It’s not just me. It’s all of us except the addled ones. Project Steve.

  8. BWE says:

    Sory Steve. I was writing that last on when you posted this one.

    ANd Mike, you are right. There is no conflict. It’s just that science doesn’t work the way some people think it does and it can be a bit frustrating.

    I will mix a nice bourbon on the rocks and chill out.

  9. Grisha says:

    Over the past months I have seen a backlash emerging against intelligent design… interestingly, it is more apparent on conservative sites than liberal ones. I suspect that many intelligent conservatives simply do not like being lumped with the morons and the nuts on the street corners. Unfortunately, the public face of the GOP is still quite pro-ID over all.

    Attacking science is one of the best ways to undermine the long-term strength of our nation. Please fight against this trend in the party. It is cynical politics and in the long run, bad politics. More importantly, it is bad for America. Our science and our scientists (I am not one) are one of this country’s greatest assets.

  10. Mike says:

    Can I have one? Jack if you please.

  11. BWE says:

    THank you Grisha.

    You people are like my twelve step group. I can be basically conservative and yet be upset about the ID thing.

    Steve, you are right on the money with this post. ID and its ilk do have the potential to be dangerous. Now that I’ve had half of my bourbon I am calmer and more laid back about the whole thing. But it is still a problem within our party and within our culture to be denying what we can see plainly before us simply because it doesn’t jibe with our opinion of how it ought to be. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to find the rottenness in our own group and take a stand against it even though it may weaken the group.

  12. Bithead says:

    Steve; I gather your point, hwoever, I think you’re not allowing all possibilities. Leaving aside God concepts for the time being;

    * Was there a creator?

    To my mind, undoubtedly.

    * What of the concept of evolution, then? You seem to be arguing against it, in the face of all scientific data.

    I’m not, not by any means.
    Evolution also exists.
    They co-exist in this way; The idea that man and his surroundings, were created by some more powerful being, does not of itself negate the idea that what was created or deposited here on earth was given the ability to cange and evolve over time to adapt to the environment, does it?

    Proposing this is hardly an attack on science, but rather a call to scientists to start including points which they’ve heretofore ignored. It facinates and annoys me that we’ve taken nearly 1000 years to get to the point where we could even talk about this in a semi-sane fashion. I submit that bias on both sides casued the delay.

  13. Steve Verdon should stick to politics and philosophy and avoid issues of biology.

    To believe that there is evidence of a creative intelligence in the universe in no way precludes recognizing that a bacteria will adapt to its environment.

    An atheistic world view is not a requirement to understand or study how biological processes work.

  14. BWE says:

    An atheistic world view is not a requirement to understand or study how biological processes work.

    That is true enough. However, a biology education is. And, unfortunately for some, a biology education provides overwhelming evidence for speciation which is the real problem with ID.

    Thunderbird,
    ????
    Brainwashedgod.blogspot.com

  15. RJN says:

    “So, is ID harmless? Well ID suggests that some changes are simply not possible via evolutionary processes. Scientists thought that the evolution of resistance to phage therapy wasn’t likely, turns out they were wrong. Could ID have lead researchers to a different and potentially very dangerous result?”

    It’s your straw man again, Steve.

    You fellows are so bankrupt that you have to resort to name calling and straw men. Lehigh had to do what it did, and it was proper that it did. ID is for the most part a philosophy of the history of our biology.

    ID has nothing to do with blocking research on mutation, ensuing variability, and then natural selection for the survivor of an environment.

    Our children are getting an education from sneering creeps. Just lovely.

  16. BWE says:

    So, I am trying hard not to name call. I respect that you have different information than I have. Do you have information which casts doubt on evolution? Now we are off topic but if you, RJN or anybody else wants to promote an alternative to evolution, I would like them to convince me. I want to be convinced because it would change my job a lot.

    The way I see it, and I have read every last piece of the dover trial transcripts, available here, and it seems to me like the big issue is speciation and I spend a lot of time dealing with real-world applications of speciation and it seems like ID is @#8&%^!!! about it.

  17. bindare says:

    Your straw man argument against ID only shows that you have not listened to the argument of the people you oppose. Nobody doubts micro-evolution and that is what your evolving bacteria is. How about showing me bacteria evolving into an animal with a vertebra and you will get my attention and everybody else’s too. Science today is built upon the foundation of the work of creationist scientists of 100 and 200 years ago, yet we progressed, didn’t we.

  18. RJN says:

    I downloaded the trial transcript, and read the opening statements. The plaintiffs, I will call then the “evolutionists” spent alot of time accusing the defendents, I will call them “the IDers”, of being religious, and other terrible things and that they were going to subvert the education of science.

    The IDers said, in their opening statement, that they were not going to do that, and that ID is not Creationism. The IDers said that ID is an adjunct to evolution, my words, and that every thing will be A OK with science if we use the text that the science dept. wants to use. They said that IDers want to add some, one time, remarks about the possibility of an alternate, and complementary, cause for some of the effects that “evolution” claims for itself. The IDers did not suggest teaching any element of ID.

    The Evolutionists did not cover themselves with glory in their opening statement. They laid out a long list of bad stuff about those religious people who built the school.

    Is all this now moot? The plaintiffs and the defendents are now the same people as a result of the new school board election.

  19. RJN says:

    Anderson:

    I don’t think science is in any danger from Bob Jones University. Everyone in the sciences at Bob Jones knows that science really works. It is a religious school, as we know, so there are issues of relevance to the Christian faith.

    I think Science is always up for grabs to some extent. IDers want to pursue truth, just as you do, and 99.5% of the time, in science, it is the same truth. When it is not the same truth, it is history that is in dispute.

  20. Tano says:

    I think that Yglesias is simply trying to be kind. ID is certainly dangerous in principle, for it ultimately is anti-science (for a “scientist” to declare something irreducibly complex is nothing less than an abandonment of inquiry, a betrayal of science).
    But ID ultimately is probably not a threat in the long run, because plenty of theists, and plenty of conservatives are smart enough to see it for the hokum that it is. Lacking a robust political constiuency, its detrimental effects will be minor, and then it will be gone. Yglesias probably sees that, and is averse to stomping on ants.

  21. RJN says:

    “(for a “scientist” to declare something irreducibly complex is nothing less than an abandonment of inquiry, a betrayal of science.)”

    I agree, somewhat; yet, that is what science has done with origins. I can understand why science has abandoned a study of origins; it is a no win waste of valuable, and limited, resources and there is all kinds of new stuff to work on. They are correct to think so, and go where the value is.

    I care about the future of scientific research, and the glories of future knowledge, but I also think ID might be right about some of its premises. The elephant in the room is always the fear of dogma.

  22. whatever says:

    There is infinately more harm to our country with the junk science of “global warming” that the silly debate over evolution. Yet everyone is wasting their time over this argument.

    The main problem seems to be that the evolution folks just can’t seem to admit that there are gaping holes in their theory, which is why scientists keep being “amazed” every time a new fossil is dug up (remember the “hobbit” people found this year?). Instead of admitting there are problems in their theory that can’t explain everything yet – and probably never will – they rather stick their fingers in their ears and pretend there are no problems. This makes their case dogma, not science.

    Scientific theories are not perfect. That’s why they keep having to be revised. And the attempt to quash alternative thinking instead of welcoming dialog and arguing with facts DO make the evolutionary folks seem pretty bigoted “My theory is PERFECT, don’t argue with me!”

  23. BWE says:

    What are the gaping holes in evolutionary theory?

  24. Grisha says:

    Well, this is disappointing… oasis no more.

    At an unnamed university, I do teach something quite like ID, which was indeed quite popular in the 18th century among scientists, and that is Deism. This is in part the idea that the universe is like a clock, and the “intelligent designer” is the clock maker. I teach this in Western Civ. (not science!).

    This sort of ID works quite well with science if:

    A) You do not believe in Divine intervention (ie miracles which would overide the scientific laws). That is, the “designer” does not “fiddle” with his creation.

    Science has fairly little to say about this… and in fact such ID has even less to say to science, because science is the study of natural phenomenon, and this definition place the “designer” outside of the realm of the natural.

    I don’t believe in such Deism, but I do teach it to undergrads in my history class. Interestingly, this sort of God, is what was meant by the founding fathers. It is an Enlightenment God. It is also bitterly opposed to the current vogue for miracles which Enlightmentment thinkers by and large considered bunk.

    If you are advocating the “design” as an on-going process, where the “designer” picks and chooses then science is bitterly opposed to your way of thinking.

    Darwin himself a Christian, at least publicly, had no problem with reconciling Christianity and evolution. He (like many scientists) saw himself uncovering God’s way of doing things. Science, in Deistic sense, is sort of a glorification of God’s creation by simply learning about it.

    As for “holes” in evolution… there are certainly more holes in the laws of gravity. Introducing ID into a biology text book is like discussing Angels in the discussion of gravity, or souls in the discussion of conservation of energy. Science is not closed minded. It simply has rules of evidence and argument. ID is by definition outside of these rules (thus including supernatural phenomena in the Kansas standards).

    If you are going to include supernatural phenomena in the discussion of science, then why not include ghosts, magic spells, holy water (I see Katherine Harris has spent public money on that one), crystals, and faith healing?

    And no, I do not think this is a minor, harmless, issue…. why? Because the ID movement is trying to actively undermine the rules, procedures, peer review, educational credentials etc of science. It is part of a larger view that “experts” don’t know what they are talking about. It is an undermining of education.

    I think some believe that science is part of “liberal” academia… this is not true (though it may be true soon enough). In fact, scientists (I am from a large family of them) are by and large rather conservative, of the libertarian sort. If you think attacking scientists is attacking liberalism, then you are misguided.

  25. RA says:

    The same old straw men and the same old lieing arguements.

    ID does not dispute the fact that there can be changes within species. It just claims there is no evidence that one species has ever changed into another species.

    Life only comes from life. No accidental process exists which takes inert chemicals and compounds and changes them into life. The tremendous complexity of the simplest life shows, from a statistical analysis, that accidental life is approximately 1 X 10 to the 125th power past statistical impossibility ( 1X10 to the 25th power).

    There are only two kinds of evolutionists. The ignorant that don’t know the science that proves evolution could not have happened. Then there are those who know the science but prefer to stay in denial because the alternative to evolution is too horrible for them to contemplate. Most of the time it is a combination of the two. This is not science, it is blind faith in humanistic 19th century superstitution.

  26. BWE says:

    AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

    RA, What makes you think that there is no evidence supporting speciation? Why do you think that? Where did you hear that? That source is causing me some consternation. Do you think that there are no examples of intermediary species? Do you think that there are holes in the fossil record? Do you think that it isn’t possible because that isn’t how genesis says it went? WHat? What is the reason that ID people think that speciation isn’t supported by the science? I can’t seem to find it in the science and I’m a darn scientist who deals with elements of evolution in my job.

    Holes in the theory would make us rethink alot of things. If I knew about the holes I could really turn the world upside down. I would be on the cover of Rolling Stone! Can you imagine the headline? “LOWLY MARINE BIOLOGIST DISCOVERS THAT GOD MADE THE FISH, ECHINODERMS, ARTHROPODS, AND TUBEWORMS EXACTLY AS THEY ARE! EVIDENCE PROVES ONCE AND FOR ALL THAT THE FOUNDATION OF MODERN SCIENCE IS BASELESS!”
    Jesus, I would be able to charge half a million bucks for speaking engagements. I would be the TIME man of the year.

    AAAAAARRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

  27. Steve Verdon says:

    It’s your straw man again, Steve.

    You fellows are so bankrupt that you have to resort to name calling and straw men.

    Sorry, I don’t see the strawman in my post. ID posits that somethings are impossible via evolution. Could an IDer have looked at the issue of bacteria developing resistance to peptides that are produced by our innate immune system and conclude it is impossible? Seems that the only honest answer is: Maybe. Of course, those using evolutionary theory have shown conclusively what the answer is. The issue is false positives (claiming something is IC, CSI, etc. when in fact it isn’t). History shows that many examples of IC have turned out not to be IC.

    Your straw man argument against ID only shows that you have not listened to the argument of the people you oppose. Nobody doubts micro-evolution and that is what your evolving bacteria is.

    The fact that you are running with the micro/macroevolution distinction indicates you don’t understand the arguments put forward by evolutionary thoerists. The same process is at work in both micro and macro evolution. The distinction is not a real world one, but one created by man to help in classification, thinking, etc. on the issue of evolution.

    Further, I understand the ID arguments quite well. Probably better than you (for example, can you tell me what the difference is between a measure and a probability measure is?).

    How about showing me bacteria evolving into an animal with a vertebra and you will get my attention and everybody else’s too.

    Evolutionary processes do not work that way. A bacteria evolving into an animal in one or a few steps would be evidence of the supernatural, not evolutionary theory.

    RJN,

    ID as promulgated by Dembski, Behe, Meyer, et. al. is religious. They all support each others work, and hence they all support Dembski’s new law of thermodynamics. This law prevents new information arising in nature without an intelligent designer. Hence, the only way for things to evolve as they have is via an intelligent designer outside of nature…hence the supernatural. Thus, religion. This conclusion is inescapable.

    As for Dover, part of the issue was the motivations of those school board members who put the policy in question in place. It seems pretty clear from what I’ve read of the trial, that the motivations were religious.

    RA,

    ID does not dispute the fact that there can be changes within species. It just claims there is no evidence that one species has ever changed into another species.

    Oh, so you disagree with Behe then? He thinks that evolutionary processes can account for speciation, he just doesn’t think it can explain everything we see.

    Life only comes from life.

    Uhhmmm…well…that isn’t a very Christian view. After all, the Bible tells us that God created life from non-life. In a broad sense, the notion of creation via a supreme deity is a form of abiogenesis (life from non-life).

    The tremendous complexity of the simplest life shows, from a statistical analysis, that accidental life is approximately 1 X 10 to the 125th power past statistical impossibility ( 1X10 to the 25th power).

    So you disagree with Dembski? Even Dembski, who would agree with parts of that paragraph of yours argues for 10^(-150) as the cut off for determining if something is complex specified information.

    BWE,

    Dang, pour one for me too!

  28. RJN says:

    I don’t think the “evolutionists” will ever come to grips with the lack of any science, not science faith, describing origins. Faith that there is no God Creator has taken the place of science in the study of origins, or so called irreducibly complex systems.

  29. Tano says:

    “The same old straw men and the same old lieing arguements.
    ID does not dispute the fact that there can be changes within species. It just claims there is no evidence that one species has ever changed into another species.”

    Speaking of lying arguments…..
    It is not ID that you are describing here – it is creationism-lite; i.e. those creationists who cannot bring themselves to really embrace pure young-earth, “god made it all exactly as we see it now” ideas. They grudgingly accept change within species but desparately try to hold onto the notion that speciation doesnt happen (truly silly of course – one need only geographically separate parts of a micro-evolving species to end up with two reproductivly incompatable groups – two species).

    ID is a blanket idea that is logically compatable with pure creationsim, creationism-lite, or even pure darwinism (the designer could have designed a system to evolve exactly as evolutionists document). Of course, as such a wide blanket, ID is further shown to be an utterly empty and non-scientific concept. It offers an untestable idea that can accomodate any reality. In the end it says nothing other than that there is some designing intellegence out there – an idea put forward and defended purely on the basis of faith.

  30. BWE says:

    I don’t think the “evolutionists” will ever come to grips with the lack of any science, not science faith, describing origins. Faith that there is no God Creator has taken the place of science in the study of origins, or so called irreducibly complex systems.

    ??? You are not making sense.

    But, that aside, where is the lack of science? Please, I want to be a millionaire and my credentials would put me on the cover of newsweek if I could even suggest that some of the science is flawed. PLEASE tell me where it is that I can find evidence that all the science regarding speciation is flawed.

  31. Grisha says:

    Part of the problem with ID is that it offers nothing positive to the scientific “conversation.” It is simply scepticism and negative argumentation.

    To say that scientists are closed-minded is absurd… After all, Christians can at least draw on thousands of years of tradition to support their beliefs.

    Scientists instead have to rely on experimentation. Could a close-minded field ever have figured out special relativity? Or Quantum strangeness?

    That’s part of the problem with ID… once you take science away from experimental evidence (there is none for ID, simply evidence purporting to disprove evolution), then you make it less likely that science will figure out the next amazing thing. Part of the ID argument is simply one of credence. They rely on the fact that the average man on the street (without a PhD, because 99.9% of PhDs in biology are convinced of evolution) will think of evolution as incredible.

    Well of course evolution is incredible! That’s part of what makes it wonderful, along with other scientific facts, including relativity and Quantum Mechanics. Certainly evolution is not half as incredible as much of the rest of science!

    Quantum Mechanics is still relatively poorly understood… why not include advisories in the textbooks? Of course, the reason is that Christian literalists can’t find anything in the Bible directly conflicting with it (though I am sure they could if they tried harder). Certainly Quantum Mechanics is more controversial than evolution. If scientific controversy is the standard for include textbook warnings, then I assume IDers must be advocating a raft of warnings with the teaching of Gravity (has this whole Einstein thing been worked out yet?) etc.

  32. BWE says:

    Right. Why not include intelligent design in economics classes too? God might interfere in the market to reward those he likes, right? WHat about the Law of Supply and Demand?

    “We are a laughingstock,” said Tim Miller, a Kansas University religion professor whose attention was called to the satirical site Tuesday.

  33. Grisha says:

    And while we are at it… we should address the part about “complexity.” This seems to me less a fundamental issue of science than mathematics. The numbers involved in evolution are simply staggering… they are quite simply “incredible.”

    Interestingly, scientists are quite prone to simple explanations for amazingly complex phenomena… the beauty of e=mc^2 / pv=nrt etc. But when such formulas are used recursively (over and over trillions of times) the complexity of the human anatomy is almost a trifle.

    In fact, this was (famously) Carl Sagan’s point when he spoke of life elsewhere in the universe (the oft misquoted “billions and billions.”). When you look at life and the universe as a simple problem of probability, the complexity of life is nothing. For this reason, many and perhaps most, physicists believe that life exists elsewhere in the universe (a very different thing from life visiting earth in the form of aliens).

    Such complexity out of simple equations is also at the heart of fractal mathematics. Who would believe that mountains and trees could be simulated with a simple 10 digit or so equation, repeated a mere few million times?

    When IDers talk about complexity, they are really preying on a public which (rightly) cannot imagine simple phenomena repeated many trillions of times… thus because it is unimaginable, they suggest there must be a designer.

    I am sure there are intellectual games being played by sophisticated IDers, but this certainly is the crux.

  34. This is what really eludes most ID proponents.

    It doesn’t matter.

    See, science works. We know it works. It falls down on the question of origins, where ID is strong, but the rest of the time… well, it works.

    Take, for example, Galileo’s determination that the rate of gravitic acceleration is identical for both large and small objects. He used the scientific method to do this, and it worked.

    Now let us use ID to explain it: um… wow. You sort of can’t.

    Now let’s take for granted that Galileo was right. What does that mean to God? Is God damaged or refuted by this?

    Well, no, He’s not.

    In fact, both situations make absolutely no difference one way or the other. Whether there is a God is still to be debated every bit as strongly for all the same reasons, and how gravity works is still a subject of scientific study. Religion and science may be sitting in much the same territory, but they’re fundamentally irrelevant to one another.

    It all comes down to Ockham’s razor. If there is a God, then there was ID. If there is not, there was no ID. The converse of both arguments – that a nonexistent God designed, or that a real God did not – is so unlikely as to be absurd.

    The debate is settled only when we can prove whether God does or does not exist. Since we can’t, ever, the debate is never settled. So just pick a side and STFU.

  35. BWE says:

    THe problem is that Evolution as a theory means that Adam and Eve are not literal events and the sweater starts unravelling.

    THose of you who understand that the science of Evolution does not get in the way of belief in god allow that the bible might not have it quite right. Can you imagine Pat Robertson saying “Well, the Bible doesn’t have it quite right”. No? Why? Because his power rests in his ability to be an authority on something which turns out to be maybe close but certainly not the whole cigar.

    If you want to say that, GOd Hates Fags for example, you need to base that premise on some authority. WHos authority is that? The Bible in a literal interpretation.

    So if GOd can answer prayers or turn lot into a pillar of salt (after being raped by his 2 daughters because there were no other men around) then god can and does intervene in the world.

    I for one, am more worried about the rapist than about god turning them into salt.

    If God does not intervene, then maybe the Bible… No, I guess I better not go there.

    But in the end it is only correct to say that there is no conflict between what we have learned through scientific investigation and God if you allow god as the universal watchmaker. As in big bang now let’s sit back and watch. WHat does that do for the bible? Pat Robertson’s Authority? Prayer Breakfasts? Tithing at fundementalist churches?

    THe muslims are in on the no evolution thing too you know. http://www.allaahuakbar.net/ATHEIST/evolution/

    Hmmm… Fanatical Muslims, Fanatical Christians, … Maybe even fanatical Jews. Are there fanatical Buddists who want to rage against evolution?

  36. Steve Verdon says:

    ID is not a theory of origins just as evolutionary theory is not a thoery of origins. Both are thoeries that take the presence of life as a given.

  37. BWE says:

    Darwin Titled his book “The Origin of the Species”

    If you mean that Evolution does not propose how DNA and RNA developed (from simple proteins into life) then you are correct. However ID does propose that transition.

    Evolutionary theory does have quite a bit of evidence as to the origins of man and consequently all the other animals.

  38. RJN says:

    BWE:

    Your last post – 15:00 states what I mean.

    Caliban Darklock:

    There is the mystery of how so many things are just so perfectly present, and balanced, in the physics and chemistry of nature. Forces are just so, in quantity and quality, and Quantum Mechanics describes an elusive information like nature.

    One begins to consider that a computer contruct of nature is not too far fetched. It isn’t just that RNA and DNA are hard to envision unless the system was designed to foster their development, but that the system itself is hard to imagine unless it is a computer.

    As you infer, of course, with a computer we must have a Creator God.

  39. cryinginthewilderness says:

    Jesus guys get a life. Hindus believe we are all bound on the wheel of life and will be reincarnated. Does this have huge implications for theoretical physics? Just asking.

  40. RJN says:

    Amen.

  41. Bill says:

    PHAGE THERAPY – ON THE THRESHOLD OF LIFE WHERE CHEMISTRY AND BIOLOGY MEET TO CONQUER SUPERBUGS.

    According to the recent book by Shnayerson, M.; M.J. Plotkin entitled The Killers Within – The Deadly Rise of Drug-Resistant Bacteria, Little, Brown and Company, N.Y. ISBN:0-316-71331-7, 2002 about 40,000 North Americans die each year because of antibiotic-resistant infections –– that amounts to about 110 per day. Some experts state that we are on the road to an impending public health crisis where the increasing incidence of antibiotic-resistant superbug infections threaten many medical procedures, unless new or alternatives to antibiotics become available. Yet phage therapy products are commercially available and used to successfully treat such infections in Georgia (Eastern Europe), Poland and Russia. For a recent, concise overview on phage therapy entitled, “Stalin’s Forgotten Cure (Science, vol 298, October 25, 2002, pp 728-731 go to
    http://www.phage-biotech.com/images/Science-phagetherapy.pdf .

    Some North Americans have opted to travel to Georgia for phage therapy treatment:

    1. Alfred Gertler a Canadian, travelled to Tbilisi, Georgia to get phage medicine treatment for a foot infection not responding to antibiotics
    ( http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/09/19/48hours/main522596.shtml ).

    2. Fred Bledsoe is a US citizen from Fort Wayne, Indiana and after stepping on a nail, his wound became infected. After 10 weeks of unsuccessful treatment in hospital he too travelled to Tbilisi, Georgia for successful phage therapy treatment
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/134619088_phage21.html .

    In Canada it should be possible for medical practitioners to get permission to import phage therapy products under the special access program provided for under the Food and Drugs Act and described as follows: “The Special Access Programme (SAP) provides access to nonmarketed drugs for practitioners treating patients with serious or life-threatening conditions when conventional therapies have failed, are unsuitable, or unavailable. The SAP authorizes a manufacturer to sell a drug that cannot otherwise be sold or distributed in Canada. Drugs considered for release by the SAP include pharmaceutical, biologic, and radio-pharmaceutical products not approved for sale in Canada.”
    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb-dgps/therapeut/htmleng/sap.html

    If one clicks http://www.phagetherapy.com the following statement welcomes visitors – “One of the most exiting developments in combating disease is Phage Therapy. Join us in the exploration of this fast breaking field.” From cures of antibiotic-resistant infections, to 95% reductions of Salmonella strains in poultry, to a potential cure for Vibrio vulnificus infection from eating raw oysters, to a treatment for anthrax ( see – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/08/020822070131.htm for an example of phage enzyme therapy )
    , and the eradication of E. coli O157:H7, phage therapy seems to provide an answer.

    Bactericidal, heat-labile, lytic principles in rivers in India were discovered in the 1890’s and it was subsequently confirmed that many rivers with fecal pollution contained similar bactericidal agents. Tanner, in his classic text book, Food Microbiology (1944), examines this phenomenon in some detail; however, it was d’Herelle in 1917 who demonstrated that the bacteria-lytic activity was due to viruses which were parasitic for specific for bacteria – he named them bacteriophages or phages – “bacteria eaters.” Phages, like all viruses, are complex chemical entities consisting of a nucleic acid core covered by a protein coat and they may have contractile tail structures; however, they have no independent means of reproduction. However, the presence of the right strain of bacteria presents the opportunity for phages to fulfil their life cycle and raison d’être and excite the reproductive machinery of the phages into action. In stealth, moon lander fashion phage soon attaches to a suitable host bacterium, injects it’s DNA which commandeers the reproductive system of the host bacterium and in a short time (30 minutes) the bacterial cell bursts open releasing more than 200 copies of phage, each looking for a new host to conquer — considering that bacteria multiply by dividing in two, while phage produces about 200 offspring for every bacterium killed, clearly with those odds even superbugs are superbugs no more and look more like victims — all this is simply to say, that what a cat is to a mouse, the right phage is to a superbug.

    Until 1940 Phage Therapy was widely practised and researched, often with contradictory results, mainly because the biology of bacteriophages was poorly understood. With the introduction of antibiotics phage therapy was essentially abandoned in the West until the 1980’s when antibiotic-resistant, superbug infections caused some Western scientists to reexamine the potential of phage to cure human and animal infections, as well as their potential for reducing or eliminating contamination from foods, ranging from vegetables to meats.

    Meanwhile, d’Herelle helped establish the Elivia Institute of Bacteriophage, Microbiology, and Virology in Tbilisi, Georgia which opened in 1923. This institute became the main supplier of a broad range of phage therapy products throughout the former Soviet Union.

    In 1997 Dr. Elizabeth Kutter from Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington examined the state of phage therapy mainly in the former Soviet Union/Georgia in her comprehensive review entitled , Phage Therapy: Bacteriophages as Antibiotics –
    ( http://www.evergreen.edu/phage ).

    At present, in addition to established organizations in Georgia, Russia and Poland which are reportedly marketing therapeutic and prophylactic phage products against bacteria including Staphylococci, Streptococci, E. coli, Pseudomonas, Proteus, Salmonella, Shigella, Serratia, Klebsiella, Enterobacter, Campylobacter, Yersinia and Brucella, there are about twenty companies world-wide racing to bring phage therapy products for a range of medical, animal husbandry, food processing and environmental applications to market. Some examples are: USA (Intralytix, Inc – http://www.intralytix.com ), Canada, India (GangaGen – http://www.gangagen.com ), Germany – ( http://www.bacteriophage.net ), and Israel (Phage Biotech Ltd – http://www.phage-biotech.com ) It is anticipated that the first phage-based product(s) will receive FDA approval in 2003; an “experimental use permit” from EPA has been granted for use of phage in the environment on non-food contact surfaces. This presentation is designed to provide an appreciation of the history of phage therapy, explore it’s potential to treat antibiotic-resistant superbug infections and provide an overview of industrial and academic research, as well as an overview of the regulatory situation.

    While noone should suggest that phage will ever replace antibiotics for treating bacterial infections, they do represent a (final) lifeline for individuals with infections where antibiotic therapy fails and letting citizens die in the name of hubris, russophobia and NIH (not invented here) is surely not good public health policy.

    Quoting Dr. E. Kutter:

    “While it seems premature to generally introduce injectible phage preparations in the West without further extensive research, their carefully-implemented use for a variety of agricultural purposes and in external applications could potentially help reduce the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains. Furthermore, compassionate use of appropriate phages seems warranted in cases where bacteria resistant against all available antibiotics are causing life-threatening illness. They are especially useful in dealing with recalcitrant nosocomial infections, where large numbers of particularly vulnerable people are being exposed to the same strains of bacteria in a closed hospital setting. In this case, the environment as well as the patients can be effectively treated.”

  42. Steve Verdon says:

    Jesus guys get a life. Hindus believe we are all bound on the wheel of life and will be reincarnated. Does this have huge implications for theoretical physics?

    I don’t know enough about Hindus and their beliefs to answer. But with regards to some Christian teachings, yes there are implications. Young earth creationism doesn’t fit with a constant speed of light.

  43. Bithead says:

    The word “supernatural” suggest soemthing science doesn’t understand, or at least that it doesn’t exist in the natural world as the scientists understand it to.

    So, how scientific is to to discount something as impossible, simply because science can’t explain it? Seems a little arrogant to me.

  44. BWE says:

    Supernatural means something that is contrary to natural law as expressed in theory i.e. a rock falling up or stuff that uri geller did.

  45. Steve Verdon says:

    Bithead,

    Science can look at the supernatural, but what it does is offer a natural explanation vs. a supernatural explanation, then one invokes the principle of parsimony/Ockham’s razor and gets rid of the nonsense (i.e., angles pushing rocks to the ground, Thor tossing lightening bolts, etc.).

    Or more simply, once you have a natural explanation, the supernatural explanation is no longer needed and it is usually unverifiable and hence goes the way of the dustbin.

  46. floyd says:

    steve; why does it astound you that someone would advocate scientific ignorance when you advocate spiritual ignorance,after all the natural is the product of the spirit.

  47. Steve Verdon says:

    Floyd,

    I don’t advocate spiritual ignorance. I fully support people to seek out and learn about religion(s) if they think it is for them. This idea, that if one believes in evolutionary theory one must be an athiest is a viewpoint you really should jettison.

  48. floyd says:

    steve,first of all your ability to draw inference where there is no implication is unparalleled. it is certainly not possible to jettison a viewpoint not held. additionally “i fully support people to seek out and learn about” evolution, “if they think it’s for them.” i merely reiterate,metaphoricly, that your focus is on the clockwork while ignoring the time. thinking is more than an evolved chemical process[clockwork]

  49. Steve Verdon says:

    Floyd,

    Your ability to read my mind is simply astounding.

  50. floyd says:

    not your mind, your posted comments.

  51. Bithead says:

    Or more simply, once you have a natural explanation, the supernatural explanation is no longer needed and it is usually unverifiable and hence goes the way of the dustbin.

    Possibly.

    But, again I say, it’s the height of arrogance to suggest we’ve been brought to that point. When you’ve got all your dicks in a roaw you can make that claim, not until. And even once you reach that lofty plateu, there is nothing in evolution to negate the idea of a creator being responsible for it.

  52. Steve Verdon says:

    Floyd,

    Nothing I’ve written says that people should reject the spiritual. I do say we should reject the supernatural when doing science.

    But, again I say, it’s the height of arrogance to suggest we’ve been brought to that point. When you’ve got all your dicks in a roaw you can make that claim, not until.

    There it is again: The Gaps argument. Sure, we don’t know everything, but we know enough to make a reasonable inference that angels are not pushing things to the ground, nor is there a God living in the center of the Earth that pulls things towards it. And similarly with evolutionary theory. Is it perfect? No, but it explains quite a lot so that it is not unreasonable to conclude that the supernatural is not at work even in the gaps.

  53. floyd says:

    understood,BTW i’ve enjoyed reading your commentary on a variety of subjects.

  54. BWE says:

    AAAARRRRGGGGHHH!

    “ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES” Evolution is the name given to the speciation of life on earth.

    It is not hubris to say that as well as we can know anything through examination of evidence, that we can know that evolution is fact. Evolution-Gaps??? No no no. THere really aren’t gaps. It is simply science and some of the more well researched science at that.

    AAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHH!

    ANy question about evolution and I can point you to the science and explain the methodology. ANY!

    And so can any other biologist! Or Geologist! Or Oceanographer! Or Ecologist! Or almost any Astronomer or physicist.!!!!!!!!

    AAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

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